Logging in to Tour Championship (a primer)
By Stephanie Wei under Tour
Last shot!

Last shot!

I was one of the loudest and most outspoken critics when the PGA Tour brass announced the death of Q-School (as we once knew it), but I’m not going to lie, I’ve been pretty intrigued by the series of Tour Finals. Given it’s in the inaugural year, it seems to have received positive feedback from the players and other detractors.

I wish it didn’t coincide with the FedExCup Playoffs, though, because if I have to choose between covering the Finals and the Playoffs, I’m going to have to go with demand and that means the tournament Tiger Woods is playing. I know the Tour Championship, the fourth of the Final Series, is between the FedExCup finale, the Tour Championship and the Presidents Cup, but unfortunately I can’t make it because of personal reasons.

(OK, I’m getting inducted into my high school athletics Hall of Fame, and really, I figured how many HoFs will I get into? One. So, I decided to make the pilgrimage back to the Seattle area, so I can accept the honor in person. And yes, this is a bit of a #humblebrag.)

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention to the quest to secure 2013-14 PGA Tour cards, here’s the deal:

*There are four events and the fourth and final one is the Tour Championship at TPC Sawgrass Dye’s Valley Course.

*127 players are entered in the field.

*50 PGA Tour cards will be handed out when Sunday rolls around.

*25 of these 50 Tour cards have already been secured by the top 25 finishers on the Tour, but they’ve been playing in the Final Series to determine their priority ranking (which is important and it’s what you’ll hear referred to as a player’s “number” — the higher their priority ranking, the better chance players have to get into tournaments. There are categories and lists of the guys who are eligible and it determines which top 144 or 125 players will comprise the field).

*The second set of 25 cards will go to players who finish in the top 25 of the Finals money list who haven’t already secured cards.

*Michael Putnam, who was the money list winner on the Tour this season, is exempt from the priority rankings because he’ll be no. 1 for the entirety of the 2013-14 season — one of the perks. In fact, he didn’t even need to enter or play in any of the events, but he figured, why not, since he’s been playing well and he keeps earning checks.

*To earn a PGA Tour card, you have to make more or less $30,000 for the entire four-event series. Currently, Steve Wheatcroft enters the Tour Championship with a $1,583 lead over Bhavik Patel for the 25th card.  Ryan Spears and Adam Crawford are another $342 behind Patel.

*Where’s Steve Stands and his fancy FedExCup math board when you need him? Well, the math for the Finals is a bit more simple because it comes down to money, but it gets a little confusing because there are 25 guys who have already secured their cards through the top 25 on the regular season money list (those players are highlighted in yellow on all the Tour lists).

*With a first-place paycheck of $180,000 (which was equivalent of last-place money at the Tour Championship last week), every player in the 127-man field has a shot of playing his way into a PGA Tour card. It’s even possible that a fifth-, sixth- or seventh-place finish will get the job done.

*Here’s the top-10 payouts:













Immelman set to re-earn Tour card

*Patrick Cantlay hoped to return to Finals play at the Tour Championship, but pulled out before last Friday’s commitment deadline. The 21-year-old fought back problems that sidelined him since May, but he finished runner-up to Trevor Immelman in the first Finals event. Cantlay secured a check for $108,000 and he hoped to return to play in more of the Finals events to pursue the no. 1 spot and its fully exempt status. Since he’ll be sitting out this week, he enters ranked eighth and will likely head to the PGA Tour with a relatively high number in the priority ranking.

*Chile’s Benjamin Alvarado hoped to make the Tour Championship his first tournament since the end of July, but his nagging knee inflammation forced him to withdraw. When the former Arizona State All-American begins his 2013-14 PGA Tour season, he will be 50th on the priority ranking list in the Tour category.

*The winners of the first three Finals events all played on the PGA Tour in 2013: Trevor Immelman (yes, the 2008 Masters Champ), Andrew Svoboda and Seung-yul Noh. 

*Svoboda is actually a curious case because he played in a Tour event when he wasn’t in the field that week for the PGA Tour event. He ended up winning. Combine that with the T31 and T12 finishes he had earlier in the season on the Tour, he earned enough money to finish in the top 25 on the Money List.

*Noh moved to no. 1 on the Finals money list after winning the Nationwide Children’s Championship. His T7 and 1st place finishes earned him $210,125, which was enough for him to decide and skip the finale and treat himself to a trip home to his native South Korea.

*Spencer Levin is also on the bubble. He missed most of the 2013 season due to injury and while he’ll have playing status on a medical exemption, he’s trying to improve his priority ranking, as are several other guys in the field.

*A nice cheat sheet to “get to know” the players in the Finals.

*Notables who need a strong week to get their cards — otherwise, it’s off to Tour Q-school or a(nother) year on the Tour — include: Russell Knox, Billy Hurley III, Tim Petrovic, Mat Goggin, Rod Pampling, Aron Oberholser, Robert Karlsson, DJ Trahan, Kelly Kraft, Casey Wittenberg, Brandt Jobe, Scott McCarron, Steve Marino and more.

Go here for the full list and here’s a screenshot of the Finals Tracker:

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